• Sep 7, 2007
We don't get it. Saturn has done an amazing job transmogrifying itself into a productive division for The General, and people are wistful for the Saturn of yore? In internet parlance, WTF? Three years ago, it would have been apt to predict that Saturn would be nearly done circling the drain by now and well on its way to the same fate as Oldsmobile. What has in fact happened has been an impressive brand renaissance, invigorated by GM's smart utilization of its global operations. Jerry Garrett opined in the September 5th Wheels section of the New York Times that GM's realignment of Saturn amounts to quietly smothering the brand with a pillow and then swiping its identity. Saturn's communications director Kyle Johnson shot back a reply on the GM FastLane blog, and it all makes for fascinating reading.

We'd like to point out that global asset and platform sharing has been going on for decades at GM. It's really no big thing that Saturn is selling Opels. Heck, the Chevette was an Isuzu Gemini, and who can forget the final Pontiac LeMans? Platform sharing has been going on for a very long time at all of the big three, we're not sure why Saturn's excercise of the practice is such news to Jerry Garrett. Kyle Johnson delivers a pretty good dope-slap of a reply, too. It's always entertaining when the fur flies on the interweb.

[Source: GM Fastlane]


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  • 47 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      Dear NY Times: Saturns are the only GM vehicles this Chrysler Corp. fanboy would consider driving.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Sorry Saturn ain't my cup of tea. Sure they have that nice looking Sky vehicle but it ain't on par with S2000 or Nissan 350z (sorry if it ain't in the same category).

      I agree with this Saturn is gone stuff. It's kinda like Saab. It's all gone no soul.

      It's like there are two fractions now. The ones that are nostalgic for the old days of good ol' saturn while there are upcoming bitches that only like the new shit because it looks nice and they never did really care for the old saturn.

      Some values feh. Give me a boring reliable saturn with one of em dent proof doors over any of em new stuffs.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Saturn isn't actually selling Opels, but vehicles with Opel styling. The only Opel car they will be importing and selling is the upcoming Astra. The new Vue is actually a Daewoo that both Opel and Saturn sell. Otherwise their lineup is US designed, engineered and assembled.

      This also isn't the first time NYT has written a completely ridiculous article about General Motors or an American automaker. Anything they print regarding cars should be taken with a grain of salt.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I was surprised by the NY Times blog. The storyline was that Saturn was set up to be a separate carmaker, but after years of unprofitability, GM decided to make changes.

      Rather than kill Saturn, GM decided to bring it into the fold so that Saturn would have access to GM's global platforms. Now, Saturn has world class cars -- the Astra, Aura, Outlook and new Vue.

      What did NYT want - for Saturn to continue selling substandard plastic subcompacts forever?
      • 7 Years Ago
      One can count on many things, and among them is the liberal, defeatist rag denigrating the efforts of their fellow Americans. Whether it is the global war on terror or protecting our national interests by giving domestic manufacturers a fair shake, you can always count on liberals and their minions in the mainstream media to assail American values. No wonder the old media is shedding customers left and right, while the blogosphere has truly become a more trusted medium.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Maybe you should look up the word 'liberal' before you start spewing that kind of nonsense. Under these allegedly traitorous liberals, you claim (Clinton administration) the economy was thriving, our status in the world was much higher and we actually engaged in proper diplomacy, we didn't have a large corporation syphoning our money off to profit the vice president's pockets and terrorists weren't running around left and right because our policy didn't create them like it does now. The media these days is not liberal as you say, as you have fools like 'Tucker' running around on MSNBC and 90% of radio is republican content, not to mention Fox which is the Right-wing propaganda machine.

        That said, this is a car blog and cars should be discussed. The article was made by one misinformed or disillusioned writer who probably doesn't know the first thing about cars or the car industry. If you want to get political, take it somewhere else, but not on this forum - try aol.com or something.

        Now about Saturn, I think they are doing tremendously well. The Aura is selling well, although they should offer a manual option and try to bring the weight somewhat further down. The Astra will be a big hit, as long as they also bring out the OPC version to entice the boy-racer crwd and turn this into the next tuner car (much like the Civic was in the 80's and 90's). Hopefully the goods keep on coming!
      • 7 Years Ago
      No offense to Mr. Roth, but this post seems to miss almost entirely what the NYT article is criticizing: a lack of uniqueness in the Saturn brand. Saturn was launched as a daring experiment to take on the Japanese brands, with unique platforms, unique DOHC engines (which were very competitive in terms of economy and output, if not NVH), and a previously unheard-of sales format.

      What is Saturn today? Just another GM division. It’s arguably one of the most competitive GM brands, but it has no unique vehicles; they’re all tweaked and/or rebadged versions of vehicles sold under one or more other names. Saturn’s sales format is no longer unique, either, as other automakers have been imitating it for the better part of a decade.

      In the ‘90s, early Saturns set the standard for domestic-brand reliability and resale value, often matching the Japanese on both counts. New Saturns generally track the industry average (according to Consumer Reports—which praised the original Saturns before they aged into obsolescence, so don’t claim bias).

      Saturn’s image has also gotten very, very confused. They’re launching the flag-waving “Rethink American” campaign just as they’re poised to introduce the built-in-Belgium Astra and built-in-Mexico Vue, both designed by an overseas division of GM. Say what you will about Saturn’s sappy ‘90s ads, but they communicated a clearly recognizable brand identity, one that lots of non-enthusiasts really liked.

      Kyle Johnson’s FastLane response dodges the issue. He argues, correctly, that the Opel designs are a vast improvement over previous Saturns, that streamlining global product lines is a good thing, and that the Saturn and Opel lines will retain unique vehicles (laughably, he specifies the Zafira, which—given hotter-than-expected sales of the Mazda5—would probably drive non-enthusiasts into Saturn showrooms in droves).

      What Johnson doesn’t address is the reason these Opels are needed: After an initial flurry of ambition, GM let Saturn rot on the vine from the late ‘90s to last year. They sold that original S-series with only cosmetic and detail updates from 1991 to 2002. In short, GM lost their nerve, and took Saturn off life support shortly after its inception, after seeing how expensive pursuing that best-in-class vision was.

      GM can’t seem to help being arrogant in their corporate communications. What Johnson should be doing is asking one of those early Saturn loyalists what they think of Saturn’s current lineup. Their lack of enthusiasm says it all, and sums up NYT’s criticism in a nutshell.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Thanks for the reply.

        I visited Saturnfans.com and read Brian Dreggors’ persuasive comment on FastLane. Saturnfans’ membership is indeed impressive, with over 20,000 members. However, this is a self-selecting group, and their opinions are not necessarily representative of all past Saturn owners.

        Anecdotal evidence is tricky; my experiences are contradictory to those Mr. Dreggors offers. Many friends have traded in aging, beloved S-series for Civics or Mazda 3s (in fairness, I live in California, where Saturn’s market share trails the national average). On my own reviews of Saturn models (most recently the ION Red Line), several commenters have lambasted the brand’s decision to abandon dent-resistant plastics, and many more have bemoaned GM’s lack of support for the original Saturn line in the latter half of the ‘90s.

        The Saturn these commenters are mourning isn’t the Saturn of 2006, now being replaced by superior shared-platform vehicles, but the Saturn of 1991: full of promise, indicative of a sea change at GM, showing willingness to take risks and invest in class-leading technology, and to develop unique customer relationships.

        It’s difficult to argue that today’s Saturn is as ambitious. The Aura was designed benchmarking generations of the Camry and Accord that have already been replaced. The Astra, too, benchmarked old targets, having originally been released in 2004. The Sky offers more style but less utility and handling purity than the Miata; call it a draw. The Outlook is a class act. I have not driven the ’08 Vue.

        The Aura Green Line is an admirable step forward, but it is still playing “catch-up;” it is arriving later than the Camry Hybrid and with lower mileage estimates. Alternatively, it can be called a “high-value” option, due to its lower price, but this does not reflect the can-do, best-in-class spirit of the original Saturn project—the one that many early Saturn adopters are grieving.

        This isn’t to say that Saturn can’t or won’t be a productive, profitable division for GM in the future. Its revived product line does indeed compete well with most rivals currently on the market. But as these rivals reach the end of their product cycles and are replaced, many Saturns will be competing as “value” alternatives to the best-in-class. That’s a viable market niche, but not one that breeds brand desirability or strong resale values, and certainly not one in line with Saturn’s original revolutionary vision. The NYT article is valid, I think, in requesting acknowledgement of this shift.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Saturn hardly had a 'soul' to begin with. It was only the dealership service that made the brand - and that is still there. In terms of cars they were absolutely nothing special, if anything was unique it was the Ion - but that was unique in a bad way, an ugly duckling so-to-speak.

        Most Saturn fans were asking for this all along anyway, and a lot of people who originally wouldn't consider a Saturn are now looking at them.

        If you don't like the fact that they are using global platforms, that's fair enough. But before you dismiss them for it think about the other carmakers who are also moving towards global platforms now - GM is one of them. Their Commodore sedan is coming here as a Pontiac G8 while the Ute is coming as a G8 variant. Even if the cars don't look alike, they all share similar/identical platforms globally through carmakers anyway, so its not that new and it actually isn't bad.
      • 7 Years Ago
      The New York Slimes: Par for the Course!
      • 7 Years Ago
      Saturn of fire with Car of the Year!.....that is funny!...ROTFLMAO!
      Here are more cars that were "Car of the Year"
      Renault Alliance
      Chevrolet Vega
      Chevrolet Citation
      Chevrolet Monza
      Winning awards does not guarantee sales and the Aura is proving it.
      While it is a hell of an improvement over the L series and I applaude the overall direction that Saturn is taking, there is still some fine tuning that is required maintain the character of Saturn.
      Also, the Astra appears to be priced too high to be truly competitive in it's segment.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Who is the NYT to be critical of anyone for rebadging? They take bullshit and rebadge it as news.

      There was a time when "The Gray Lady" stood for journalistic integrity, now it stands out as an outmoded and out of touch institution.
      • 7 Years Ago
      god forbid someone has an opinion on gm.

      the aura is nice but has some shortcomings

      no 4cylinder option? ouch

      saturns v6 is not as powerful as hondas

      saturn comparing their v6 to hondas stripped down 4cylinder accord, fair ? not really

      let me know when saturn has a real sedan to offer.

        • 7 Years Ago
        A) The Aura Green Line is the 4 cylinder option and the base V6 gets 30mpg on the freeway. Not bad.

        B) Saturns V6 doesn't have as high a HP rating of the Honda, but do you really need more than 250HP in a front-wheel drive car? Does that extra HP of the Honda enhance your driving experience that much? Can you even use it?

        C) Saturn compared their base model Aura to an Accord of comparable price. Why compare it to a car that costs thousandds more? Shouldn't that say something about the VALUE Saturn is giving vs. Honda?
      • 7 Years Ago
      Check The New York Times circulation/readership slide over the last 10 years and you'd swear it's THEY who need a makeover, not Saturn.

      They are in a major free-fall and it's about time they figure out that their rampant liberalism is a big reason for it. Yeah, you can say the internet has bitten into them,.. but look across the street at the New York Post, and you'll see their circulation is generally up.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Holy S***T, what's with all of the GM friendly posts? Is this Autoblog or GMInsidenews? Kidding aside, GM must do doing something right for a change.
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